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Friday, March 20, 2020

Everyday Life—More Convenient than Ever

Everyday Life—More Convenient than Ever

Let me risk sounding Pollyannaish at this coronavirus moment. This link is by no means intended to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic and the need to stay vigilant, or how much suffering some are having to endure, or how complicated it is making life. But even as I hunker down trying to help some in my quarantined family (after a trip to France), I realized how much easier it is to manage the little things of life these days, as noted in My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s.” Two examples among many:
Power Tools (such as drills, leaf blowers, or lawn mowers) are increasingly battery-powered, making them more reliable & quieter & less air-polluting. …
Shipping speeds have dramatically improved, especially for low-cost tiers: consider Christmas shopping from a mail-order company or website in 1999 vs 2019—you used to have to order in early December to hope to get something by Christmas (25 December) without spending $30 extra on fast shipping, but now you can get free shipping as late as 19 December!
Nothing earth-shattering in the list, but it does remind one that the everyday grace of conveniences—like power tools!—can bring a little joy into one’s life.
Rules Rule
Like most of us, I chafe at the countless rules that dictate our behavior in a complex world, especially when they seem inconvenient. Like having to wait at a red light when there is absolutely no traffic coming. And so on. And yet as this article notes, rules and rule-making are woven into the very fabric of human existence:
Consider, too, how rules are the essence of sport, games and puzzles – even when their entire purpose is supposedly fun. The rules of chess, say, can trigger a tantrum if I want to “castle” to get out of check, but find that they say I can’t; or if I find your pawn getting to my side of the board and turning into a queen, rook, knight or bishop. Similarly, find me a football fan who hasn't at least once raged against the offside rule.
But chess or football without rules wouldn’t be chess or football – they would be entirely formless and meaningless activities. Indeed, a game with no rules is no game at all. …
… rules about driving on the left or the right, stopping at red lights, queueing, not littering, picking up our dog's deposits and so on fall into the same category. They are the building blocks of a harmonious society.
Of course, there has long been an appetite among some people for a less formalised society, a society without government, a world where individual freedom takes precedence: an anarchy.
The trouble with anarchy, though, is that it is inherently unstable – humans continually, and spontaneously, generate new rules governing behaviour, communication and economic exchange, and they do so as rapidly as old rules are dismantled.
Friendship Park
The rules and laws surrounding our southern border are subject to fierce debate right now. For this week’s long read, I offer a poignant look involving “a patch of land between San Diego and Tijuana, [where] loved ones reunite across a mesh fence, poking pinkies through the holes to touch.” Journalist Suketu Mehta is clearly in favor of a more lenient border policy—with which, as readers of the GR might suspect, I heartily agree. But he fairly represents an opposing view, in particular of one Rodney Scott, border patrol sector chief, who happens to be a devout Christian. Before that, he gives us a little history of this “patch of land”:
For years, if you didn’t have papers or lacked the authorization to leave the United States without the right to come back, the only place along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexican border where you could meet your family face-to-face was at the end of the line: a small patch of land adjoining the Pacific Ocean between San Diego and Tijuana. It was inaugurated by First Lady Pat Nixon in 1971 as a “friendship park” between the two nations and originally did not have a fence. Families on both sides could meet and have picnics together without hindrance. “May there never be a wall between these two great nations,” Nixon said. “Only friendship.”
Why Do We Love Dogs?
Speaking of friendship, let’s think about dogs. I’m not a dog lover, but I’m married to one, so I have some vague understanding of the matter:
The joyousness of dogs, or at any rate their great affability, must have been a significant factor in their induction into human communities. The usual utilitarian view that dogs were first put to practical uses – hunting, guarding, pulling – and only later became inserted into family life as pets is implausible.
Not quite, according to this review of On Dogs: An Anthology,
Dogs could never have been properly trained in the intelligent skills required to, say, assist hunters except by people whose empathy with them was acquired through living with these animals. [Nobel prize winner zoologist] Konrad Lorenz was right to speculate that the appeal which playful puppies have for children, and indeed their parents, was crucial to their adoption into our ancestors’ communities.
Jealous Dogs
Is it that we love dogs, or that dogs want us to love them? You decide after watching Jealous Dog Want Attention Compilation.”
Grace and peace,

Mark GalliMark Galli

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